The Challenge Rambles and riff raff about all this and that

18Jun/091

Tweet your way into saving the world

There was a time when I was not a sarcastic, cold heart (curse words).  At the time I was 4 years old. By the time I turned 5 I already was this SoaB.

I look at the twittverse and it reminds me of what I know of the 60s. Too much flower power, high hopes and interest in changing the world, but little real action and tangible proposals.

Take into account the recent events that had to do with Iran's election. I'll grant you that technology played a pretty decent job allowing the world to find out about what was going on at Iran (to some extent).

Yet the problem is when poeple that don't live in Iran start acting like they could actually have an impact. Like that idea of changing your twitter location to Tehran to confuse Censors.

(dramatic pause)

For intelligence sake! Do people actually think the Iranian government is moronic enough to completely ignore IP location or trace routing technologies. I can picture the Secret Service guy in some government bunker thinking: "Oh, Gee, I'm so confused this guy with a Manhattan IP says he is located in Tehran, what will we do? Lets re-count votes".

Don't get me wrong, I know this is all well-intentioned, but it lacks thinking.And it lacks real action.

The impression I get is that most of the twitters actually go to bed at night with the notion that by changing their Twitter Avatars to green and using the #IranElection hashtag the world has become a better place.

That is our 2009 perception of activism: type something in 140 characters, that ought to have an impact, Right? Wrong!

Then of course we get hit by news telling that the US state department asked for a maintenence reschedule so that the Twitts about IRan would keep coming.

"If the US state deparment asks for that then Twitter must be really important! I'll sleep soundly tonight!"

Sorry, but: Holy Fucking Shit.

We have been amused to idocy. We are so bombarded by information, we have been positively reinforced so much that we actually think we are that important.

Saddest thing about it is that people could actually make a difference in a lot of aspects. But not by twitting, or using hashtags or changing avatars to green, but by actually doing stuff.

Now we also find out that despite what media and new media tries to make the crowd believe Twitter did not play an important role in Iran.

The whole "changes happen one step at a time" thing has rooted so deeply that people actually believe a 140 character message has an impact. Change happens when people take real steps. Not twitted steps or verbal steps. Things happen when people act, not when they hashtag.

I think we need to grow up and grow out of this self-inflicted deceit. We need to go back at thinking at lenght. And by length I mean longer than 140 characters.

3Feb/093

Train Wreck: Social Media to meet Commerce in 2009

Crisis. Market Crash. Layoffs. Lowered Margins. Need for profits.

Perfect scenario for Social Meda to go profitable. And Ugly.

Since I've been recently called out "Emo" due to the nature of my recent posts and Mark made the valid point that "We need to [...] call out the frigtards", I decided to go upbeat and have a little fun with how ugly some things will turn out for social media this 2009

As CFOs shake up the dust and make a comeback to steering companies' fates we're witnessing budget cuts everywhere. If you can't prove what you do can earn money (not just save, but earn) your have good chances of facing a difficult reality. Difficult as in "job hunting" difficult.

I'm prepared to witness a ton of experiments that will make me want to go and live as a hermit in some obscure and inaccessible cave with no internet access. Dire situations require desperate measures. This can be the recipe for:
a. unprecedented originality or, much more frequently:
b. nasty efforts that smell, look and taste like desperation.

This can be a good thing for a couple of reasons. For starters it will be fun to watch and blog about. It will also put many the self-proclaimed social media experts in evidence as little more than hot air.

As water levels go down stuff that was previously hidden starts to pop-up. Exposure can be ugly. Particularly for those exposed.

So, what is a Social Media marketer to do?

Accountability is an excellent concept to stay somewhat in the safe zone. At least it can keep you in the safe zone if you have some results you can be accountable for in the first place. So, in case there are results to be proud of the challenge then becomes one that is common ground already: how to measure in Social Media. But that is a matter for a separate post.

Generating direct revenue and increasing ROI should also be high on any social marketer's agenda. Signing off the papers to wipe out a department or team is always herder to do if that same department or team is earning money.

Yet the risk resides in trying to make money at any cost. The infamous bread for today, hunger for tomorrow. Spam email is the perfect example of this sort of behaviour. It might generate some revenue. It will sell a few products, but the negative impact on the brand is perdurable and undermines future profits. It is the same principle that yields Soil degradation as a product of overgrazing. Fit too many cows in a plow of land (or try to sell too many products through the wrong channel) and you'll have one moderately good year and a nice desert (or lack of customers) soon.

That is what we'll witness during 2009 and that is the sole futurology attemtp I'll make. It is going to get nasty. And that is always fun.

27Apr/081

Is Social Media the extremophile of marketing?

For those who don't have the luck of being married to a Biotech Phd (well, almost Phd) here's the wikipedia definition on extremophiles:

An extremophile is an organism that thrives in and may even require physically or geochemically extreme conditions that are detrimental to the majority of life on Earth.

Hopefully the definition helps in the hyperbole I'll make an effort to build here.

For the past 2 years or so we've been hearing about the web 2.0 bubble. I have advocated this belief myself, stating that many companies are either overpriced or directly unprofitable; "doomed" for short. The most recent post from the "mayhem is near, repent" series I have read is one by Dennis Howlett, its title is worth of a Stephen King novel: "Are we headed for a nuclear winter?".

It is true that the economy is cooling (more evidently so in the US) and that will drive costs cut, heads rolling and venture capitals to become as cold as an iceberg. Many companies will fall, particularly when credit starts to get crunched (an unavoidable step if policy makers don't want to get us into a much nastier situation). The web 2.0 bubble will burst sooner or later.

But "Social Media" and many "services" that came to life under the two-point-oh label are here to stay. Sure enough many sites will disappear or evolve due to the harsh economic conditions, but the same way that "portals" didn't just vanish into nothingness in 1999, web 2.0 will not become just a mere memory overnight.

A recession is to Marketing what "physically or geochemically extreme conditions" are to microorganisms: not good. When the belt starts to tighten we all know that Marketing spend is one of the first to suffer.

I won't get as optimistic as Jeremiah and say social media will be "effective", but rather keep a more moderate point of view. I'll say it will "survive" I have to admit that I tend to be more conservative on expectations because I know that not every single CEO and CMO out there shares (or gets) the enthusiasm for Social Media. Jeremiah writes:

(...) Social Media, which tends to have lower costs than other forms of marketing (commodity tools) can be very cost effective for those wanting to get customers to spread and share messages. On the other hand, marketers need to be careful, because doing it wrong will result in more work, and in some situations, brand backlash.

Cost effective is good, particularly under economical uncertainty, but I think the most important features that will keep the social media marketing boat floating are adaptability, accountability and being (somewhat) measurable. (For honesty's sake I must say the latter two are sketched on Forrester's report).

Here are the thoughts on SMM's advantages:

Adaptability.
Social Media Marketing is adaptable due to what I believe is its definition (for once the wikipedia definition of SMM didn't please me, so I'll give my own): "A direct engagement from a company to its -prospective and existing- customers through online community (social) tools".

Note: although I do believe that things such as transparency and authenticity are premises for a successful Social Media Marketing strategy, I left the terms out of the definition because I can certainly picture scenarios where strategists would leave them out of the equation.

Engagement is constant and tools are variables. Processes are variable as well. This makes SMM a very adaptable task; it can downscale our upscale depending on available budget, tools and bandwidth.

Accountability.
One of the most beautiful things about SMM is that it puts real people's faces to otherwise faceless companies. People relate better to other people rather than to logos or press releases. This is a double-bladed weapon, though. As Social Media Marketers our visibility goes up, but so does our accountability. If I say something or do something wrong on a public site it is my head that's out for chopping. And that is refreshing.

I've witness lack of accountability for far too long in the corporate world. We, as corporations, have grown the awful habit of shielding behind teams and collectiveness when things don't work. I have as a personal premise that if I screw up I'll stand for my mistake (and hopefully learn something out of it).

The same happens when a campaign or social media marketing initiative backfires. There is -quite usually- a personal "touch" (for lack of a better term) on this ideas that can be backtracked like breadcrumbs to the intellectual author. So bosses always have someone to shout at, and that is always cathartic for those in decision making positions.

Measuring.
Social Media Marketing's metrics accuracy stand someplace in between Internet and traditional advertising. It is not possible to relate sales with spend as effectively as with, say, Ad Words but it is not as nebulous as TV ads. Yet, there is a lot that can be learnt and turned into numbers, figures, pie-charts, trends and power point presentations with SMM. In the worst case scenario it can serve as a barometer for the general sentiment towards a brand.

Bonus.
There is one other very powerful reason why SMM will be around even Marketing budget will equal to a take-a-penny tray: People. Fortunately there is a growing number of customers who have grown numb to traditional marketing BS. There is still value on traditional Marketing, but the signal-to-noise ratio on consumer's ears is tilting towards the noise side. There's a whole new niche that won't ever get engaged by a TV ad but will become active participants and even evangelists for a brand if the messaging is good enough. Many companies would of never turn around part of their negative image if they didn't engage into SMM.

I'm quite certain there's a big chunk of the pie of customers that would be lost if SMM was ditched. And that is something no companies are willing to do.

My prediction: SMM is like roaches; it will survive the nuclear winter.

This post was adapted to Spanish and posted @ Denken Über. Thanks to Mariano for the invitation.